The bed that belonged - only in the loosest sense possible - to Harry James Potter at Number Four, Privet Drive was not comfortable in the least. The mattress had been bought nearly two years ago at a garage sale for the lowest possible price. On it was a scratchy but serviceable blanket, a pillow that was missing the majority of it’s stuffing, and one very tired twelve year old boy.
Despite how uncomfortable the bed was over all, it was the best thing Harry had experienced all day.
Precautions, in the form of spells and threats, and been put against his relatives to keep them from physically attacking him, but that didn’t stop them from working him to the bone, or from spewing whatever foul things came to mind while he did the work. He had heard the word ‘freak’ be used more times in the past 6 days than he had in the past year. And that was one of the nicer words they had levied at him.
The clothes he had chosen to wear probably hadn’t helped his case. Normally he wore his cousin’s old castoffs, which looked ridiculous on him, but meant that they couldn’t be mocked without casting that judgment on Dudley. This year, however, the precautions, mixed with the knowledge of the message it would send, made him choose the fancier clothes he had obtained from the Malfoys.
Apparently dressing nicely meant that his relations felt the need to speak their opinions on their views on the possibility of his sexuality. Behind ‘freak’, ‘nancy boy’ and ‘pouf’ were the most common things he was called.
But it didn’t matter, as Harry had been telling himself. This day was the last full day he would be spending with his relations, and then his sacrifice for his mother’s protection would be complete. It certainly felt like someone was cutting out his heart. Very slowly, at that.
Harry curled over on his side and ignored the way his back protested the movement. Rather than bother to try to use the pillow, which was only slightly higher than the bed, he grabbed it in his arms and squeezed it.
Just tonight, and a little bit of tomorrow, he told himself. And then he would be home.
With that thought in mind, Harry was able to drift off to sleep.
The next day began early for him. Around 6 AM, earlier than even he, a bona fide morning person, was comfortable with, his Aunt Petunia pounded on the door. “Wake up, Freak! You have things to do before those... things come and get you.”
It wasn’t worth it to try and explain again to her that the Malfoys were in fact people and not strange items. She hadn’t listened all the times before when he tried. Apparently that shade of hair just wasn’t natural, and therefore they could not possibly be human. Instead, Harry rolled out of bed and stumbled down the stairs.
On the table in the kitchen was his list of chores for the day. He glanced at it and barely contained his groan. The list was just slightly shorter than yesterdays, and he wondered if they would try to prevent him from leaving if he didn’t get them all done in time.
For a long moment, he considered simply not doing any of them. It’s not like the Malfoys were going to sit around and wait for him to do them, nor could he be given the typical punishments for not completing them. He wouldn’t be around long enough for them to starve him, and the protections would save him from whatever physical chastisement Uncle Vernon could dish out.
But the memory of the verbal onslaught he had suffered thus far this summer made him head out the back door to start. If that was what they said when he was doing what they wanted, he really didn’t want to hear what they said when he angered them.
The first task of the day was taking care of the garden - weeding, mowing the grass, watering everything that needed it (and stealing a sip from the hose while he did so). After he washed Uncle Vernon’s car, making sure it shined the way he liked it. Once that was completed, he went inside and made breakfast for the Dursleys and cleaned up afterward.
The rest of the morning was spent washing the windows and doing the laundry. After that he was tasked with cleaning up the living room - dusting, vacuuming, cleaning up the trash that Dudley left behind him like a trail of disgusting bread crumbs.
That was where things started to get problematic.
Dudley had taken up residence in that room, joined by his friend Piers Polkiss. The two of them had been watching the telly, but quickly found Harry to be the more interesting entertainment. “Enjoying the cleaning, nancy boy?” Dudley called, something like glee in his voice. “I’m sure everything is far to messy, and the colours must clash awfully.” His voice was nasally, and he let one thick hand go limp at the wrist, flapping it about as he talked. Piers burst into snickers.
“Leave it, Dudley.” Harry replied, voice going dangerous. He did his best to copy his professor’s tone, as the man was the most intimidating person Harry had ever met. It was enough to make Piers stop, but Dudley was far too used to having the power to let something like words stop him.
The hand flopped even more violently. “Leave it, Dudley!” He parroted, voice high and girly. “I just can’t take it!” He voice went back to normal as he sneered. “You would think you’d be stronger than that, Potter, considering the way you must take it up the arse.”
Something about the knowledge that the Malfoys would be there any minute gave Harry the courage - or the blind stupidity - to whirl around and hurl the duster at Dudley’s head. It made contact with a dull crack, and the large boy jerked back more from surprise than the impact. The movement made him put all of his weight onto the arm of the couch, which gave a groan like a dying animal before giving up altogether, breaking off with a sharp crack.
There was a long moment where all three boys stared at the broken couch, before Dudley whirled his head around, blonde hair flying in all direction and eyes narrowed in anger. “Oh, you’ll be paying for that, Potter.” He stood and took one lumbering step towards Harry, waiting for the fear to appear on the smaller boy’s face.
It never came.
Instead a cleared throat made Piers and Dudley spin around, and Harry’s heart to skip a beat.
Draco Malfoy, in full blown Malfoy Heir mode, despite the Muggle clothes he wore, looked down his nose at Dudley. “And why would Harry be doing that?” He sneered, lip curling in distaste. “From what I saw, it was you who broke the sofa.”
Red flooded Dudley’s face, anger making the boy’s face twist. It was the first time Dudley Dursley had been blamed for something in years. “Who the hell are you?” He demanded.
“That’s Draco Malfoy.” Harry told him blandly, putting the slightest amount of emphasis on the boy’s last name. A bit of pink dusted his cheeks as well, and his heart seemed to have decided to run wild on him. Harry decided it had to be the adrenaline. After all, in a few minutes he was going to be free.
The name rung the right bells in Dudley’s head, because all that colour drained out of the boy’s face, and he tried to say something, but whatever it was got lost in his fearful stuttering. He grabbed a very confused Piers by the shirt and dashed out the back door, slamming it behind him.
For a moment, Harry and Draco both stared at the door with amusement, before they turned to grin at each other. “What are you waiting for, a written invitation?” Draco asked, arching an eyebrow. “Let’s go get your things so we can leave this awful little place.”
Harry didn’t need to be told again and dashed up the stairs. As he turned down the hall, he caught Lucius and Narcissa also entering the house. He shot them a quick wave before bursting into his room, grabbing the already packed trunk and empty owl cage, and ran back out.
When Harry reached the bottom of the stairs with his things, a house-elf he had never seen was waiting. It took his things and disappeared with a crack, Harry stared at the spot a moment. “I thought you weren’t allowed to use magic.”
Narcissa nodded her head. “Correct. We weren’t allowed to use magic.”
Harry grinned a little at her before turning to look at the empty house. His aunt was shopping and his uncle was at work and Dudley had fled. Harry stared at the family portrait of the Dursley family that greeted everyone who set foot in the house. He approached the frame before taking hold of it and tilted it at an angle, leaving it off centre. It wasn’t damaging, and it wasn’t permanent, but it was satisfying.
“Come along, dear, we want to take you to a nice restaurant for an early supper.”
Harry joined the others as they made their way down the sidewalk of Privet Drive. He took a moment to enjoy the absurdity of it before joining them as they rounded the corner. After a small bit of walking they reached an empty patch of land that was being developed and made their way down a hill. Once they were out of sight the four of them joined hands and Apparated.
They reappeared in an alley and Narcissa’s mouth folded into an unpleasant line when she realized she was standing in a puddle. She shook off her boots before the hodgepodge family slipped into the flow of people seamlessly. They walked for about two blocks before ducking into a small restaurant. When they went down the steps into the restaurant, they paused between two doorways and Harry watched in curiosity as the Malfoys slipped off their shoes and slipped on a pair of sandals that were handed to them in a wrapped package. Harry waited a moment before doing the same.
The restaurant was modesty decorated, mostly with art and fabric on the walls. They were led to two different tables, Lucius and Narcissa took the table across a small partition and Harry and Draco took it on the other side. He didn’t understand why they didn’t have a larger table until he realized all the tables were set up for two, unless there was a party of six or more. Harry tucked himself into the corner of the booth against the wall and took his menu with a grateful smile. A cursory glance over the items told him the restaurant was Japanese and that the items for dinner were more than he was sure his aunt and uncle paid for their wedding dinner. Guests included.
“Draco, what are you having? Your father and I are both getting the black cod specialty plate. Do you want that?”
Draco made a face behind his menu which Harry smiled at. “I didn’t like it last time. Let me read.”
Harry had long since learned to ignore the price when he went out for the Malfoys, even if he usually ended up ordering the cheapest thing on the menu, out of respect, it was hard to ignore the idea of sixty pounds a plate. He had never heard of some of the fish on the menu and he had no idea what a sashimi was, but he would give everything a try. It was his untoward policy when it came to food.
“Harry, what are you having?”
“I think I’m going to get some beef.”
“Good choice,” Narcissa approved. “They have lovely beef.”
“Can I get yellowtail?”
“Draco, why are you asking?”
Draco peered over his menu and over the divide at his mother with a smile. “An attempt to be polite?”
Narcissa narrowed her eyes at her son. “You’re not getting sake with your food.”
“You aren’t fifteen. We had this conversation already, no alcohol until you’re fifteen.”
“Fine. I’m getting the duck specialty plate.”
They placed their order and were quickly given their drinks - hot sake for both Lucius and Narcissa while Harry was happy with a soda, and he managed to elbow Draco into getting one too. When their soup arrived, Harry studied it curiously - he had never seen a soup with an egg in it before. He watched as Draco picked up his bowl and stirred the egg into the broth with his chopsticks before plucking out the white cubes of something Harry didn’t recognize with ease. Harry eyed the chopsticks with trepidation. Whenever the Dursleys had ordered Chinese they always received the complimentary chopsticks, but never used them. Harry had no idea how they worked. And considering he hadn’t gotten a spoon with his bowl, he was going to have to learn quickly.
Picking up his chopsticks, Harry stirred in the egg and lifted his bowl. Instead of attempting usage right away, Harry sipped from the bowl, figuring he could drink the broth and then simply slide the food up the rim of the bowl without issue. The technique worked and Harry was pleased with his rather calm way of getting over his lack of understanding. After their bowls were taken away, they were given their plates with sushi and thinly sliced fish, which Harry quickly learned was sashimi. Harry watched how Draco held his chopsticks before he mimicked the hold and picked up his first piece of sushi. It was a little wobbly at first but he managed, because the sushi was firm and large, which made it easy to hold. The sashimi, however, was a whole other problem.
“I seem...” Harry started, frowning when the sashimi slipped from his chopsticks again. He tried to pick it up, only to have it fall. “To be having an issue.”
“It’s because you’re tense.” Draco placed a hand on his arm and rubbed lightly until Harry relaxed. “Now try.”
Harry tried again and failed. He scowled down at the innocent sliced fish. He blinked when he felt Draco’s hand slide over his own. The angle was slightly awkward since they were sitting across the table from one another, but Draco managed to guide him into picking up the sashimi and lead it up to his mouth. Harry gave an embarrassed but grateful smile when Draco dropped his hand and returned to his own food. Harry returned to his slippery attempts at eating.
Finally their main course arrived and Harry watched as they sliced his beef into thin, supposedly easy to eat strips and rested it along the bed of rice and vegetables. This was going to be a nightmare. Draco tucked into his duck happily and Harry dove into tackling his food. He thought he was doing alright until the chopsticks slid and his beef dropped unceremoniously to the plate.
“Would it be rude to just ask for a fork?”
Draco gave a soft laugh. “You’re just giving up to easily.” Draco’s eyes went to the bamboo divider between their table and his parents’ table. He leaned forward a little. “This is technically considered rude in Japanese culture but...” Draco picked up his chopsticks and wiped them with his napkin before stretching slightly across the table. He snatched hold of the piece of a waygu beef that was eluding Harry and held it aloft in the air. “Well..?”
“Well what? What do you want me to do with it?”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Eat it.”
Harry turned pink and he could feel the tips of his ears burning, but he slid forward a little and took the bite. He sat back and mumbled a quiet thank you before picking up his chopsticks, feeling ready to try again. Draco merely gave a half nod and took a few bites from his own plate. Harry watched him a moment with an odd sort of smile before returning to eating his food with slow, careful precision.
Soon enough they finished and Apparated to Malfoy Manor. Harry couldn’t stop a grin from forming at the sight of the foyer. After a moment of looking around, he aimed that smile at Draco. “It’s good to be home.” He stated, voice and eyes warm.
Draco’s answer smile was just as gentle.
“Your things should be in your room, Harry. I imagine you’d like to unpack.” Narcissa spoke up, her eyes switching from one boy to the other as their exchange continued.
A pair of nods was her answer, and they made their way up the stairs into Harry’s room. His trunk was sitting on the bed, and the cage set up neatly by the window. Draco slid onto the bed next to it and clicked it open. He didn’t take anything out, instead gazing around the room. “We should really do something with this place.”
Green eyes gazed at him in confusion. “What do you mean?”
Kicking his feet slightly, Draco made a grand gesture around the room. “This place is still so guest room-ish. There’s nothing personal here at all. It’s your room now - has been for a while. We should make it look like it belongs to you.”
The idea of a room he got to help decorate for himself was a foreign one, and it took Harry a few seconds to process the idea. “It’s no big deal, really. The room is fine the way it is. No sense going to the trouble of changing it around when I’m so used to the way it is.”
Snorting, Draco shot him the familiar you-are-so-Muggle-raised look. “You’re not being serious, right? Trouble? All it would take is a quick charm to change to walls, and the House-elves can change the furniture around faster than it takes to ask them for the switch.”
Harry gave a little half-shrug. “Like I said, I’m really used to the room like this. It’s fine.”
A groan came from the blonde, and he grabbed the back of Harry’s shirt and tugged him backwards until they were laying side by side on the bed, arms just barely brushing. Some little part of Harry noticed that Draco was very warm, which was stupid. Of course Draco was warm. He’d spent enough time pressed against the other boy or with his head in the Malfoy heir’s lap to know that. For some reason, the knowledge of all that contact now made his cheeks turn pink.
“Close your eyes.”
Casting a sideways glance, Harry gave him an odd look. “What?”
The impact of Draco’s shoe on his shin shut him up. “We’re doing a mental exercise. Now close your eyes before I stick them shut.”
Harry cast one last look at Draco before shutting his eyes. “Alright, now what.”
“Picture a room. Right now it’s got nothing in it. But you know that it’s your room, and you can do whatever you’d like with it. What colour are the walls?”
For a moment, Harry considered fighting this game. It really didn’t matter what the room looked like. But Draco was just going to push until he got what he wanted, so in the long run it was simply easier to cave. “Gold. A dark gold.”
Smugness came off Draco in waves, and Harry thought about returning the favor and kicking him, but didn’t want to break the strange atmosphere that was developing. “Alright. Now the floor.”
Sighing and relaxing back, Harry’s voice softened somewhat, till he sounded almost drowsy. “It’s carpeting. Not quite white - just a bit of yellow, like cream.”
Draco nodded, and the motions of it made the bed move slightly beneath them. “What does the furniture look like?”
“A light wood. Shorter - none of them are very tall. To make it easier for me to get what’s in it.”
A chuckle escaped Draco. “And the bed?”
Harry’s head flopped sideways a bit, but he kept his eyes closed. “The same wood. Like the ones in the Slytherin dorms. Those curtains, especially. The covers are slick, and a deep green.”
At that point, Harry expected Draco to say something like ‘no that wasn’t so hard, was it?’. But instead there were a few minutes of silence, before the blond spoke, voice soft. “Wanna try something else.” Harry made a soft noise of agreement. “My parents taught me this ages ago. They said it helped make emotions easier to control, and some magics used it.” He took a deep long breath. “Think of a place, It doesn’t have to be real, if you want. But it needs to be kind of big, with room for a lot of detail.”
Harry gave a little hum, and thought for a moment. trying to think of places he knew. The Manor would be nice, but he wasn’t sure he could recall it with enough detail. What place did he know best? Privet Drive was out of the question, obviously. The next best place was Hogwarts, and the area he knew best was the dorms, and the surrounding corridors. “Okay.” He responded.
There was the slight swish of the covers as Draco nodded. “Imagine that place as specifically as you can. If it’s outside, think of the weather. If it’s inside, thing of all the little items lying around. Got it?”
It took a minute before Harry had a reasonably accurate mental picture of the Slytherin dorms. “Yeah, got it.”
“Now, try to match up your thoughts to the different places. Put the your secrets in the places where no one can get to them. If there are books, put memories of learning in there. That sort of idea. And just sort through them. Organizing, I suppose.”
They were both silent after that, and Harry started to pick through his memories, deciding where they should go. Memories of laying about with Pansy and Draco got stuffed into the seats. The Dursleys got hidden away in his trunk by his bed. Working with the professor became the windows.
Slowly the little world he had created became sharper, like it was becoming more real. And as he hid is memories around, he became more comfortable. Slowly, he began to relax, more and more...
The feeling of someone shaking his shoulder was jarring, and Harry nearly jumped out of his skin. The light of the room had changed, now the last bits of light before the sun set. And that wasn’t all that was different. The room he was in was like the one he’d described earlier to Draco.
Blinking, Harry slowly sat up, adjusting his glasses on the way. It wasn’t identical to the one he’d imagined, obviously - the furniture had a different shape to it, and the colours were just slightly off. But it was close enough to make him wonder if he was dreaming.
Then he saw Draco’s smug expression, and knew he wasn’t.
Narcissa smiled at him from the doorway, and pocketed her wand. She smiled warmly at him but didn’t speak. After a moment she slipped out the door, with the air of someone who was quite pleased with herself.
A warm pressure on his shoulder released, and Harry realized that Draco hadn’t let go from when he’d woken him. “You can thank me later.” The blonde told him, still smug. “Anything you want changed? Now that Mother has left.” He rolled his eyes.
Shaking his head, Harry gazed around the room. “No, it’s perfect. And I can thank you now, though it really was unnecessary.”
“Don’t be a prat.” Draco returned. “It very much was. Now, you look ready to collapse again. No doubt those Muggles overworked you for that week you were in their clutches. Have a nice night.” He left, casting one last smile over his shoulder.
Harry could only blink after him, before sliding back down and under the blankets.
One day he was going to be used to all this. But for now, the warmth of his room sent him back to sleep.